REVIEW: CommuniCore Hall & Plaza at EPCOT – Functional, But Fugly

Phil Wood

The exterior of CommuniCore Hall at night, illuminated with colorful triangular lights. A tree and a few people are visible near the entrance of CommuniCore Hall.

REVIEW: CommuniCore Hall & Plaza at EPCOT – Functional, But Fugly

With the opening of CommuniCore Hall & Plaza on June 10, 2024, the years-long EPCOT reimagining is complete. Were the changes and new additions to the park worth the wait? WDWNT’s Tom and Eric discuss it all in their honest review.

CommuniCore Hall & Plaza Honest Review

Two men wearing colorful shirts and glasses host a podcast in front of a background with geometric patterns and the text "COMMUNICORP." A cartoon armadillo character is on the right. Text reads "TOM & ERIC REVIEW, live from CommuniCore Hall at EPCOT.

This is an honest review. Even though we are on the Disney media list, we still promise to give you our honest feelings about alterations to Disney Parks. If you want to know what we truly liked and didn’t like about the EPCOT reimagining, then this is the place for you.

EPCOT Reimagining

Concept art of an aerial view of EPCOT at night, featuring numerous futuristic structures, illuminated pathways, colorful lights, and water features as part of Project Gamma.

Back in 2017, Disney unveiled “Project Gamma”, the name given to the EPCOT reimagining. In 2019, Disney began announcing attractions coming to the reimagined park. Among the experiences announced first were a beer garden, a water maze, and a new Starbucks. Some of the initial experiences came to fruition, others did not.

Also in 2019, Walt Disney Imagineering Presents the EPCOT Experience opened in the Odyssey Pavilion. This experience teased the new attractions coming to the park. It changed a lot, mostly to remove things from the projection mapping, and then closed permanently in 2022. And while many assume COVID-19 is what caused the reimagining to experience significant changes, the truth is that construction delays were already popping up in 2019.

It’s been a long process, but with CommuniCore Hall & Plaza’s opening on June 10, 2024, the EPCOT reimagining is officially complete. From when it was announced until it finished, seven years passed and a lot of attractions were forgotten forever. So was the reimagining a success? Yes and no.

CommuniCore Hall Interior

A modern cafeteria in CommuniCore Hall features high wooden ceilings, circular light fixtures, and large windows. Tables and chairs are scattered throughout, with colorful banners hanging from the ceiling.

As has been the case with so much of the EPCOT reimagining, CommuniCore Hall is functionality over form. People are going to enjoy this new building because of what it has to offer. Most importantly, it is an air-conditioned space with plenty of seating options. This will be great for guests looking to escape hot temperatures and rainy conditions. It’s also perfect for people who, like us, don’t enjoy walking and eating.

But the interior of this building could have been so much nicer. It’s not a very Disney structure at all. We would describe it as a gray box that we thought would be bigger. So are people going to enjoy it? Yes. But they’re not going to enjoy it in a typical Disney way.

The spacious CommuniCore Hall features modern seating arrangements, tables, and colorful banners hanging from the ceiling. Circular blue lighting adorns the ceiling, while large windows flood the area with natural light.

From the conversations we’ve had, this is everything the people operating the space wanted. It’s a very flexible location that can be used for events, exhibits, festival booths, seminars, and live broadcasts. The kitchen even has cameras and lighting, which allow for cooking shows to be filmed.

This leads us to what benefits most from CommuniCore Hall: food service. While the inside of CommuniCore Hall won’t have food offerings in the short term, this space will be useful during festivals. At the moment, Festival Favorites is open, but we expect more temporary offerings throughout the year.

Entrance to EPCOT's "Festival Favorites" dining area with a glass façade and geometric-patterned overhang. Black stanchions line the pathway, welcoming you to an inviting CommuniCore Plaza experience.

Festival Favorites is accessible from outside of the building. Right now the location is offering an “Encanto”-themed menu. This kiosk will evolve, and we love the idea of them turning this into a tribute store for food. Essentially, if one item from a booth is popular but the entire booth isn’t, then that one item can be found at Festival Favorites. This opens the door for fan-favorite items such as the Frangipane cake from Festival of the Arts to remain available to guests.

While we certainly have problems with CommuniCore Hall, we are happy it exists. EPCOT International Food & Wine Festival will have a few more booths and we will have an air-conditioned space to review them. And it’s nice to know that you can go to Festival Favorites, grab food, and head into an air-conditioned space with plenty of seating.

In all, this building works from an operational standpoint. It’s just a shame they didn’t make the space more attractive.

Mickey & Friends Meet and Greet

Exterior of "Mickey & Friends" entrance at a theme park. Signage indicates separate queues for Lightning Lane and Standby entrances. Two staff members are stationed at a counter below the sign, reminiscent of the organizational style seen at CommuniCore Hall.

For all that could have been improved with the new reimagining, nothing bothers us more than the Mickey & Friends meet and greet. It’s not the characters against the flat backdrop that are the problem, it’s the relentless EPCOT pandering in this area.

With the murals they installed inside and outside of the attraction, all they did was remind us of everything they took away from us. They have homages to a dinosaur from Ellen’s Energy Adventure / Universe of Energy, a Body Wars probe, and the Horizons butler. But this building is the antithesis of everything EPCOT Center was.

A vibrant mural at CommuniCore Hall depicts a futuristic scene with a monorail, geometric shapes, and people in colorful attire, set against a backdrop of stars, planets, and abstract designs.

We were doing our best to be happy with what we have, and then Disney reminded us of everything we lost. They plastered how great the park was on a building which is the definition of what ruined it. How about, rather than plastering the Fountain of Nations on a wall, you build a fountain in World Celebration Gardens?

We understand that some attractions had to go because of time, but to be reminded of all the ones that were demolished just because Disney messed up isn’t great. It’s not just superfans who will care; when casual Disney fans see the Fountain of Nations on the mural, they’re probably going to be reminded of how amazing EPCOT used to look.

CommuniCore Hall Exterior

The exterior of CommuniCore Hall at night, illuminated with colorful triangular lights. A tree and a few people are visible near the entrance of CommuniCore Hall.

The exterior of CommuniCore Hall looks good at night, but it’s bland during the day. The fact that they chose to just replicate the design of Spaceship Earth doesn’t work. Before this reimagining, there was a harmony between the old CommuniCore buildings and SpaceShip Earth. They were two different things that fit well together.

Entrance of CommuniCore Hall with a striking geometric wall pattern in the background and sleek glass doors reflecting the trees and sky.

With the opening of CommuniCore Hall, it’s clear that the entire area no longer works together. We have the gorgeous faux-natural environment of Journey of Water, Inspired by Moana, but this wasn’t embraced anywhere else. So now we have the beauty of Moana, backed up against this weird modern interpretation of a CommuniCore Building, which is just a box with decorations on it, and then we have World Celebration Gardens. Visually, it doesn’t work.

But that being said, guests will get a lot of use out of this area. There are plenty of spots to sit and relax. It’s just a shame that they didn’t make the building look nicer.

To be fair, we know that COVID-19 changed plans for the reimagining. Imagineers were working on a diminished budget once construction began, which means they were giving us what we wanted, albeit more cheaply. Maybe they did the best with what they had, maybe they were rushed, or maybe they liked their design. Whatever the reason, the result is disappointing.

CommuniCore Plaza

CommuniCore Plaza features an outdoor area with modern structures, a dome-shaped building, scattered umbrellas, and palm trees under a partly cloudy sky.

CommuniCore Plaza is a significantly better space than CommuniCore Hall. Having an outdoor live venue in the middle of EPCOT is great and will make for a fun place to hang out. When World Celebration Gardens first opened, it felt lifeless. In April, they started the “Forces of Nature” acrobatic show, which was a step in the right direction. This stage is another massive positive for the park.

Atmospheric live entertainment has gone by the wayside at Walt Disney World Resort. But with this very visible stage that people will pass every time they visit the park, Disney will have no choice but to fill it 365 days a year. This is going to bring so much energy to an otherwise lifeless area. Right now, the stage is occupied by “¡Celebración Encanto!” and La Calle, an awesome live band.

The stage is a bit weird to look at because it has no back. However, we learned that the staging can flip around. Therefore, if the sun is too strong, the performers and the screen can face the opposite direction. It’s functional and that’s a good thing. But again, it could have looked better.

‘¡Celebración Encanto!’ & La Calle

CommuniCore Plaza stage with colorful flags and column wraps inspired by "Encanto"

There is no denying that people are going to love “¡Celebración Encanto!” However, it was disappointing to us for a few reasons: first of all, it’s not a new show. 90% of this comes from Disney Cruise Line, and almost everything makes more sense in that context.

This works as a great cruise activity with trivia, arts and crafts, food and drinks, and a character meet and greet. But why are we bringing these elements to the park? Trivia is something you expect on a cruise. You don’t expect it when you go to EPCOT.

One major difference between this show and what is available on Disney Cruise Line is that kids can participate in a 10-minute dance party with the characters at the end of the show. Guests are going to be thrilled with this. Kids will go up and dance and parents can snap photos, which is exactly what they want.

Performers on a colorful stage with a drum set and tropical-themed decorations, including flowers and a bicycle cart, in the background. Some are in costumes; one wrapped in a green cloak. Trees visible behind. The scene radiates the vibrancy of a true celebración encanto.

However, this ending doesn’t change the fact that most of the show takes place on a screen. All of the singing is pre-recorded, and though the dancers and performers are phenomenal, they aren’t given enough to do. Having hosts stand on a stage and point to a screen is a tired format, no matter how many additional performers appear. It barely qualifies as live entertainment, and it feels like Disney has phoned it in.

Additionally, everything at Disney is supposed to be for everyone. Whether that’s an entertainment offering, attraction, or hotel, everyone is supposed to be able to enjoy what they are experiencing. Unfortunately, this show is just for families with small children. There is nothing for anyone else.

La Calle Band performs on a decorated outdoor stage with colorful banners at EPCOT's CommuniCore Plaza. A female dancer engages with the audience in the foreground, while onlookers, including a person with mouse ears, watch.

One could argue that La Calle is for adults, but kids will dance to any music with a beat. So really, La Calle does a better job of fulfilling Disney’s promise than “¡Celebración Encanto!” Essentially, “¡Celebración Encanto!” is a less entertaining version of “For the First Time in Forever: A Frozen Sing-Along Celebration” at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. “For the First Time in Forever” is funny, has air conditioning, and is for everyone. Kids love singing along, while parents can gain enjoyment from watching two streetmosphere performers tell jokes.

Permanent Structures and More Seating

Outdoor seating area with round tables, chairs, and tall trees on a sunny day. Background includes a person walking and a fence with various plants. The area has modern concrete and metal furnishings.

Aside from Journey of Water, Inspired by Moana, the best part of the EPCOT reimagining is the permanent meaningful infrastructure for festivals. EPCOT now has so many places to sit and hang out. You’ll never have to worry about finding a seat if you want one.

The reimagining wasn’t the prettiest thing, but guest comfort was prioritized and they succeeded with that. It’s just a shame they didn’t make it look better.

Good on them for building things that enhance the guest experience. Shame on them for building ugly things that aren’t Disney.

Picnic tables and umbrellas are set up on a grassy area under a blue sky with scattered clouds. Several people are walking in the background.

Other permanent structures that work include the Rose Walk picnic area and the new pavilion between France and Morocco. Everything they did to improve festival operations was done tremendously.

The Future of EPCOT

Moana standing in her meet and greet area at EPCOT, standing in front of a tan, rocky half-wall and bright green plants.

Years ago, CommuniCore used to be the area of the park kids wanted to ignore the most. It was boring for them. Now, the area features a meet and greet, an Encanto show, a live band, and Moana. This entire side of the park is now kid-friendly, which is great because kids don’t generally like EPCOT. Former Disney CEO Bob Chapek always said he wanted EPCOT to be “more Disney, timeless, relevant, family-friendly.” While the reimagining may not have achieved all of that, there is no denying, it is now a more family-friendly park.

The construction walls coming down is a huge plus for EPCOT. There will always be walls at Disney, as we’ve seen with EPCOT already erecting more for the Test Track reimagining. But we’re hopeful we won’t see intrusive walls in World Celebration for a while.

There is a lot that could have been done to make the EPCOT reimagining better. Everything serves a function, but the park doesn’t look as good as it could have. That being said, maybe Disney learned from this experience. The new Test Track is said to be inspired by World of Motion. That’s a lot better than a designer’s mediocre take on what we used to have.

Now, we just hope that Disney makes Test Track good again and gives us a new version of Journey into Imagination with Figment. Once those two things are rectified, EPCOT will be a lot closer to what we want it to be than it was for the last five years. Maybe one day they’ll even bring Horizons back, but we know that is never going to happen.

Watch or listen to this review as part of The WDWNT Podcast below:

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